Monday, October 20, 2014

title pic Week 3 of the 1950s Dress Sew-Along

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on August 29, 2011

Week 3 of the Butterick Retro Pattern 4790 Sew-Along!

butterick-4790-original-advertisement           Hello Ladies!  This week we will finish sewing our Butterick 4790 50s dresses!  If you have not finished all the previous steps mentioned in Week 1 and Week 2, don’t worry – you can post the link to your finished dress pictures whenever you like.

So at this point our dresses are all assembled, they just need the finishing touches such as the raw edges finished, the snaps put on, and the skirt hemmed.   

Bias Binding

You have two options for binding your dress.  The first option is to fold the double-fold binding over the raw edge and stitch in place as your pattern instructions call for.  The method I prefer to use makes the bias binding be visible only on the inside, which looks a lot less “homemade” in my opinion.  Of course you may have different preferences depending on what material you are sewing with, but below I am illustrating the method I’ve used on all the 1950s dresses I’ve sewn.

1. Pin the right side of the bias binding to the right side of the dress. 

          2.Stitch in place, with the needle hitting the binding right through the fold line. 

          3. Trim the seam allowance down to 1/4″.  Press the seam flat, then press the seam open.

              4. Finally, turn the bias binding to the wrong side of the dress and press.  Pin in place and stitch the binding to the inside using either a machine or handstitch.  On my orange 1950s dress I finished the entire garment with tiny hand stitching, but on both later versions of Butterick 4790 I used a decorative machine embroidery stitch which went much faster!

                            5. Once the binding is sewn, press it one more time to smooth out any “bubbles”. 

That’s it!  I love working with bias binding since it maneuvers so easily around the curves and gives a fast, clean finish to raw edges.  As the pattern instructs, you will use your bias binding to finish the neckline, armhole side edges, and the vertical skirt opening edges.  To be entirely honest, I actually don’t bind the vertical skirt edges, since I usually buy as few notions as possible.  : )  Of course you can do whatever you prefer, but I only bind the neckline and that one long curve from the center back to the center front.  Then I serge the side edges of the front piece (that ends up closing in the back), and the side edges of the circle skirt I hem by machine or hand.  Note: Before you bind or hem your vertical edges, you need to try on the dress to make sure it is very fitted in the bodice.  If it is too loose, you can just make a wider hem down the center front opening to pull the edges together. 


After turning the bias binding to the inside of the fabric, I stitched it in place using a decorative machine stitch.

Snap Closure



Now you can sew your snaps and buttons in place!  Here again, I do this just a little differently than what the Butterick instructions suggest. 

         For the front piece that closes in the back, I simply sew either a snap or a hook and eye to the respective edges which closes very quickly in back without any lumps from a button.  You’ll notice that the pattern instructions calls for making a button loop out of the bias binding on one side and sewing a button to the other side, but not only is this method a bit tricky to make (with the loop fitting the button exactly), it also can add more bulk to the dress in back.  (You don’t want it to be obvious that there’s a button underneath the waist seam!) 

For the back piece that wraps around to the front, you just sew three sets of snaps going vertically down the center front closure.  Once you have the snaps properly closed, you can sew three or four decorative buttons right over the top on the right side of the fabric.  This is such an easy way to get a “buttonhole” look without all the work of actually making buttonholes! (But before you sew your snaps on, you will need to try on the dress to make sure it is as fitted as you like.)


Hem Your Dress!

This is the last step!  After your dress has been hanging for at least three days, mark the hem and cut off any uneven edges.  If you have a dressform, simply fasten the dress on the mannequin just as you will wear it and mark an even distance all the way around.  If not, you can have a friend mark it for you while you wear it.   You can hem it by machine or hand, but my favorite method is just to serge or tightly zigzag the bottom edge without turning it up at all.  This is because a circular hem will always have a little too much fullness to lay quite as flat as I like.  Surprisingly, the over locked edge has looked great on all the 1950s dresses I’ve made, and creates a dainty finish for such a flared, flowing skirt.


The serger stitching gives the hem a bit of a ruffled look.

    Congratulations!  You just made an authentic 1950s walkaway dress!  Of course this is just the basic dress, and there are many decorative touches you can add to spruce it up. 

  •  Consider wearing a ribbon belt around the waist like I did with my cotton 1950s day dress,
  • or pin a flower at the waist or towards the neckline.   When I wore my orange 1950s dress (with the white flower accent) to the store, a sweet old lady said, “You look just like we used to dress in the 50s – we highschool girls had a different flower for every outfit!”
  • One of the most popular accents of the day was a wide, vinyl belt over their tightly-fitted bodices.   
  •  Another idea for embellishing this dress is to put a small ribbon bow at the neckline,
  • or to sew a ruffle of contrasting tulle to the inside of the dress hem for a classy 1950s party dress look!   
  • Do a Google search for “1950s Dresses” or look through some of the patterns at for more ideas on how to embellish your 1950s dress! 
  •  And if you’re going for the “1950s housewife” look, there’s nothing more appropriate to accesorize your dress with than a vintage apron!


So now that our dresses are finished, we will have our “1950s Dress Party” next week where everyone can link to their pictures of the walkaway dresses (on a blog, Flickr, etc.)  You are also welcome to email me pictures if you’d like me to include them in next week’s post. 


My 1950s dress is nearly done, so now I just have to decide where to have it photographed!

Let’s try to think of some creative photo shoots for classy or retro themed pictures!  You might want to have the pictures taken in a retro-themed diner, in front of a 1950s bungalow, or in an elegant flower garden to make the setting just as lovely as your new dress!  Wearing a 1950s dress is only half the fun, because you’ll look so much more vintage if you wear a crinoline petticoat, vintage hat, and some white gloves to complete the look!  So curl your hair, put on your high heels, and really go all out for this!  If your hair is shoulder length or shorter, it will be so easy to reproduce a 1950s hairstyle.  If it’s longer, you can style an elegant up-do or curled ponytail.  I look forward to seeing what everyone comes up with!   


 Happy sewing,




title pic Butterick Royal Wedding Dress Pattern for Catherine’s Gown

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on August 23, 2011

Butterick Patterns Releases a Princess Catherine Wedding Dress Pattern!


Copyright Butterick Patterns, 2011.

Ever since the royal wedding festivities in April, I have been waiting to see one of the “Big Four” pattern companies release a “royal wedding dress pattern” for Princess Catherine’s bridal gown.  And at last one of them has!  Butterick Patterns has just released their latest wedding dress design, BP249 which is very close to the original Sarah Burton design and makes a wonderful replica of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress!  This bridal gown pattern is clearly a “knock-off” of Princess Catherine’s wedding gown, though there are some obvious differences in the back which make it easier to sew.   A few months ago I studied  how one could combine separate patterns to achieve the Princess Catherine look, and while you may still want to read to study all the design details, this pattern will greatly simplify the process!


Pattern covers are copyright Butterick Patterns, 2011.

The royal wedding has so inspired future brides that Butterick Patterns has released not one, but three dress patterns inspired by William and Catherine’s wedding!  Besides the royal wedding dress pattern, Butterick has also produced a drapey bias-cut dress pattern (BP250) which is nearly identical to Pippa Middleton’s royal bridesmaid dress pattern (minus the elegant row of buttons down the back closure).  Butterick Patterns used the same model for both patterns, who looks very similar to the royal Middleton sisters. 


Pattern cover is copyright Butterick Patterns, 2011.

 The attention to detail that Butterick showed for their photo shoots is impressive.  For Princess Catherine’s wedding dress pattern, we see a lovely brunette with the same half-up/half-down hairstyle topped with a replica of the Cartier’ halo tiara and a lace trimmed single layer veil.  At her ears hang diamond earrings which are reminiscent of the acorn earrings which Mr. & Mrs. Middleton commissioned for their daughter Catherine as a wedding gift.  The bridal bouquet she holds has the same simplicity of the original royal bouquet, and we see an enormous sapphire ring (replica of Kate Middleton’s engagement ring) on hands that sport a thin coating of light pink nail polish over short fingernails.  At first glance I actually thought it was Princess Catherine on the front pattern cover! 


Pattern copyright by Butterick Patterns, 2011.

The third royal wedding dress pattern is for the flower girls.  Once again the child model they used bears a striking resemblance to one of the royal wedding participants, and while the dress is a simple, classic style, I’m sure brides-to-be will favor this pattern for Kate Middleton-inspired weddings!


Pattern cover image is copyright by Butterick Patterns, 2011.

As far as the Princess Catherine’s wedding dress pattern is designed, the front is nearly identical, with the same high-necked lace overlay/bolero, sweetheart neckline, and wide pleated skirt.  The Chantilly lace slopes from the high neckline down to the center of the sweetheart curve just as the Sarah Burton gown did, and the sleeves are just as fitted and end in a slight “v” at the wrists.  (For more photos of the original royal wedding dress on display, click here.)

The back of this Butterick wedding dress is different than the original royal wedding dress, and while it is still quite lovely, I might not recognize it for exactly the same bridal gown. 


At center & right is the original Sarah Burton dress, on the left is the Butterick Patterns version.

  • The original dress had wide pleating down the skirt back; the Butterick Pattern 249 has only one small pleat at the back waist.
  • Kate Middleton’s royal wedding gown had an ostentatious train which was approximately 7 feet long, while the Butterick gown pattern has probably no more than a 3 foot train.
  • One of the most notable design elements for the Sarah Burton designed dress was the floucy “bustle” at the back waist of Princess Catherine’s gown.  The newly-released wedding dress pattern doesn’t quite have the same effect, as the separate bustle pieces sewn at the back waist seam lends an more angular, almost triangular feel to the back.
  • Lastly (and this is not a big difference at all), Princess Catherine’s wedding dress had a slight downward curve to the strapless back.  This Butterick pattern has a completely straight strapless back, which is not quite as slenderizing as the original royal wedding gown.

But that being said, many bridal seamstresses may not make an exact replica of the royal wedding dress anyhow, and unless a bride-to-be was very picky (which they often are!), she probably wouldn’t notice much of a difference between the two wedding dress designs at all.  Butterick has done an excellent job reproducing the royal family’s wedding dresses in such a short amount of time, and I’m sure they will be the most popular wedding dress patterns for the next couple years, at least!  Visit to purchase these patterns.

title pic Week 2 of the 1950s Dress Sew-Along for Butterick 4790

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on August 22, 2011

Week 2 of the 1950s Dress Sew-Along

Hello Ladies!  I am excited for us to start sewing our 1950s “walkaway” dresses!  Does everyone have their patterns fitting properly according to the instructions I gave last week?  If you have any questions about the fit, I am more than happy to answer them, so please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you need any help before sewing your dress.  Butterick 4790 is a bit harder to fit than some patterns simply because it does not have an actual side seam, so if you choose to fit your tissue patterns in the future it will probably be easier for you the next time around. 

So let’s start sewing!  This week we will sew the darts, skirt seams, and shoulder seams. (You will definitely want to follow your pattern instructions for this dress, as these notes are added as a supplement to the pattern, not necessarily as a substitute.)

Sewing the Darts

Butterick 4790 has a total of eight darts between the front and back pieces.  There are two vertical darts in the back which are very simple, and four vertical darts in the front sheath piece in addition to the two regular horizontal bust darts.  While darts are not hard to sew, I used to find myself dreading the tiresome process of tediously marking the darts onto the fabric one pin prick at a time!  So after years of using traditional methods for transferring dart markings, I finally decided just to slash right through the darts and draw on the lines with a fabric marker! 

How to Sew the Darts

1. Cut through the dart markings for your size, stopping right before the point. 

2.On the wrong side of your fabric, mark where the dart lines are with your fabric pen. (Test on a swatch of your material first to be sure the marker will erase.)

3. Pin the dart closed, making sure the lines match up exactly.

 (For the vertical darts, it doesn’t matter which end you start at, but for the horizontal bust darts you will want to start sewing at the side, finishing at the point.)

4. Using a regular length machine stitch, sew until you get about 1/2″ away from the stopping point.  Now shorten your stitch lenth and sew the remaining length of the dart till you reach the fold of the fabric.

5.  Once you reach the edge of the material, do not backstitch.  Lift your presser foot and needle, and pull the fabric away from the needle for about 1″.  Lower your needle into the dart’s seam allowance approximately 1″ behind the apex of the dart.  Now stitch for 1/2″ or so using very short machine stitches.

6. There’s no need to backstitch since the tiny stitching will not unravel.  Clip the threads and press your dart, then proceed to the next one. (I learned this method for sewing darts from the Palmer/Pletsch School of Sewing, so I can’t take any credit for it. ) : ) 

The next steps are all going to be so easy!

Sewing the Circle Skirt

1. Take the two half-circle pieces and pin them together at the side seam with the right sides together.  (Now it will just look like one half-circle, with one long side pinned and one left free.) 

2.  Sew this seam and press it well using the Five-Step pressing method I give instructions for here You may, of course, choose to leave your seam allowances unfinished, but it will only take an extra minute to serge or zigzag the raw edges and will greatly improve the appearance on the inside!

3. Pin the top of the circle skirt to the bottom of the bodice back piece with the right sides together.

4. Stitch this seam, press it well, and finish the raw edges. 

Now that your skirt is on, you will want the dress to be hanging on a hanger (the padded type is best)  at all times when you are not sewing it.  The reason for this is that the bias needs to set on the skirt, and in a few days from now you will notice that the hem is no longer circular!  Most professional seamstresses let their skirts hang for at least three days before they hem them to be sure that the bottom edge won’t turn out all warped.

And finally, sew your shoulder seams. 

This step is a piece of cake, of course!  Pin the front and back pieces together at the shoulder seams, and stitch them closed starting at the neckline edge and going out to the shoulder edges.  Press the seams and finish the raw edges.

 That’s it for this week!  I was able to do the above steps in one hour, so I may finally be able to make that “Three Hour Dress” goal after all!  Back in the 50s women were supposedly able to “start the dress at 9:00 am and wear it out at noon”, but if they were good seamstresses they would have let their skirts hang for a few days first.


We still have a ways to go, but you can definitely see how our 1950s dresses are coming together!


Next week we should have no problem finishing the dress binding and hemming, and the following week we’ll post our pictures just in time for National Sewing Month!


As always I am happy to answer questions, so let me know if anything is unclear to you.  Keep up the good work – I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!

Happy sewing,